Or, consider other cards for 50,000 more miles or points that transfer into United miles with additional flexibility for your everyday spending.
$1,000 toward travel or transfer to United, Southwest, and more.
Reward nights start at 10,000 points. Free anniversary night (no points needed) good at any IHG hotel (Intercontinental, Crowne Plaza, more).
Meridiana Airlines just joined the Avios frequent flyer program, and as a result you can use your British Airways and Iberia Avios to book Meridiana flights effective immediately, which is great news if you want to explore some of the harder to reach parts of Italy this summer.
That also means if you have a Chase Ultimate Rewards account via the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card or American Express Membership Rewards account you can transfer your points to British Airways Avios and use them for Meridiana flights this summer.
Meridiana is Italy’s #2 carrier, after flag carrier Alitalia, and is best described as Italy’s holiday airline. They fly to a lot of vacation destinations popular with Italians, like Mykonos in Greece from most major Italian cities, as well as many summer vacation hotspots in Italy for European tourists like Sardinia and Catania.
More interesting to U.S. residents, Meridiana is the only airline with nonstop service to Southern Italy from the U.S., with summer service from JFK to Palermo and Naples.
The JFK flights are only for the summer season, running May through most of September, but availability seems decent based on our spot phone checks, making this a good option for last minute summer travel.
Unfortunately you won’t find Meridiana space visible online. You have to get on the phone and call British Airways to ask an agent to look for space. They can find it using booking class ‘F’ for Economy and ‘J’ for Business Class, and have them look on these days of the week:
The Naples flights also offer connecting service to Catania in Sicily.
Just note that flights for Summer 2015 won’t be loaded up until the fall, after Meridiana digests its summer travel season.
For Economy Class tickets from JFK to Italy you’ll pay 50,000 Avios plus $562 in surcharges for a round-trip, not a great deal, but par for the course with Avios.
For Business Class tickets from JFK to Italy you’ll pay 100,000 Avios plus the same $562 for a round-trip, so that’s a better deal, and much better than the $1,000+ if you fly through London on British Airways to get to Italy.
Other flights follow the usual Avios point pricing (price chart here), starting as few as 4,500 points one-way (9,000 points roundtrip) for flights of 650 miles and less.
Planes are reasonably modern, the long haul flights have basic in-seat entertainment in Economy Class.
Business Class is not the best in the world – you won’t find lie flat seats. But it gets the job done according this review from Airways Magazine a couple of years ago, and most importantly it gets you to Palermo and Naples without a connecting flight, and for 100,000 miles plus $562 that’s a reasonable deal.
If you’re on an extended trip to Europe, Meridiana flights can be very useful as they fly to most of the places Italians like to go on holiday. Sardinia is probably the most accessible part of Meridiana’s network, it’s the original base of the airline.
Meridiana doesn’t have any true hub, and instead operates a lot of point to point flights, so the best way to see where they fly is to go to the Meridiana website and choose ‘Search from Map.’ Cities in red are Meridiana destinations and you can see where they fly from by clicking on the name of a city.
Here’s a map of all Meridiana destinations.
You can fly to Cagliari in Sardinia from:
No one else has more flights there and it’s a great option for a weekend hop while you’re in Italy on holiday. With flights so short you’ll pay just 9,000 points roundtrip to hop over from the mainland, but you will be stuck paying taxes and surcharges, which vary.
You can reach Catania in Sicily from:
Most Meridiana routes operate only a few days a week, which is why they have so many destinations for a relatively small airline. It’s kind of like Allegiant Airlines here in the U.S. which serves a lot of smaller cities to popular vacation destinations, but they’re not quite as exotic as the ones Meridiana serves in Europe.
Meridiana even serves the Maldives from Milan and Rome.
Sicily is one of the most under-rated places in Europe, and in many ways is Italy unspoiled.
Nowhere else in Italy will you find so much beautiful coastline mixed with bucolic countryside, a touch of urban flair in Palermo, and great wine of its own.
While it’s not uncrowded during the summer- Europeans love Sicily as an accessible holiday destination – you’ll find it less touristy than places like Rome or even much of the Tuscan countryside during the summer.
It’s a great place to spend a week.
A couple nights in Palermo, which is one of the most calm yet invigorating urban centers in Europe, a few days by one of hundreds of easily accessible beaches, and another few exploring the countryside will change your view of Sicily for the better.
Because it’s not so popular with U.S. tourists you’ll find fewer tourist ‘traps’ than in other parts of Europe, which makes Sicily especially relaxing and refreshing for summer travel.
Prices for staying in Sicily are much more reasonable than other places in Italy more popular with U.S. tourists, and with Meridiana flights now open for booking with Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards points via British Airways Avios it’s a great time to give it a try.
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